Almost all of the technologies for the production of second generation biofuels ...

Almost all of the technologies for the production of second generation biofuels are in the final stage of commercialisation and their launch is expected within the next two years. These are biofuels that are derived from non-food biomass such as agricultural and forest waste, or energy crops like miscanthus and switch grass. ‘The success of such fuels depends, to a large extent, on national policies and measures towards sustainability,’ says Frost & Sullivan Analyst Phani Rajkumar Chinthapalli. ‘Ensuring access to the required feedstock for second generation biofuels is also crucial for the sustainability of the market.’ Frost & Sullivan believes that the policies and the long-term renewable fuel targets set by the European Union and the US will significantly assist in establishing second generation biofuels. They will also help sustain the commercial success of such fuels up to 2020. Second generation biofuels could also find an ally in the forest and food industries. The paper and pulp industries, which have low operating profits for the last 30 years, would benefit from expanding into this new market. ‘Sugar companies across the globe are looking to participate in the biofuels market with their waste by-products,’ says Chinthapalli. ‘Large joint ventures and partnerships between forest and food companies and technology providers are being formed across the world. Biomass power plants can also be viewed as potential customers for the second generation biofuels technology providers.’ The estimates of biomass by different organisations such as the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) at local, national and international levels have shown that there will be no lack of feedstock for second generation biofuels. However the accessibility to this biomass will play a catalytic role in ensuring the long-term commercial viability of second generation biofuels. ‘The accessibility changes for different feedstock,’ explains Chinthapalli. ‘Agricultural waste, forest residues and energy crops have different supply models to get them to the gates of biofuels manufacturers. Frost & Sullivan believes it would be most profitable for producers to partner with forest and food industries.’ In addition to biomass, algae represents a potentially lucrative alternative market for fuels in the future. Companies and researchers are increasingly investigating the development of high yield algae and the production of fuel from algae. ‘In Japan, fuels that are based on camelina, jatropha and algae have successfully been tested,’ Chinthapalli says. ‘The competition from algae-based biofuels is expected to be strong in the future due to its high yield potential compared to other biomass feedstock.’

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